Rally Australia: Paddon focused ahead of rally
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Less pressure and focus on process will be key for a good result, writes Colin Smith
New Zealand rally star Hayden Paddon will be putting less pressure on himself heading into his favourite round of the World Rally Championship, which starts on Friday.
WRC Rally Australia, based in Coffs Harbour, is the final round of the world championship in which Paddon and co-driver John Kennard hold fourth place and could seize a podium finish in the title fight.
“Australia is a highlight for me, because it’s the closest we get to having a home rally and every year more and more Kiwis are heading over,” said Paddon.
“The support is very special. It makes you feel a little bit more comfortable and it gives you some extra push to get a result, so it’s the rally I look forward to the most.”
But Paddon is working on a different approach to the Coffs Harbour event this year.
“I think there are lessons from last year, where we put too much pressure on ourselves to get a particular result,” he said.
“This year the focus is on trying to put together the perfect performance with good preparation and driving near-perfect stages. A good result is possible, but we first have to focus on the process to put all of that together.”
Kiwi support for Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard will be out in force at Coffs Harbour this weekend. Picture/Greg Henderson Photography.
The Australian event sees the WRC stars in action on familiar Coffs Coast gravel stages but two months later in the calendar.
“A lot of the stages are familiar. Two key stages, one on Friday and one on Sunday, are in a different configuration, so we will be writing new pace notes for those,” Paddon said.
“The November date means we are expecting warmer temperatures that will be a lot harder on the tyres. Already last year we had quite significant tyre wear so I think tyre management will also be a factor.”
When the rally begins, the starting order on the Australian hard-base gravel roads is expected to play a crucial role in the contest.
Paddon will start fourth on the road in his Hyundai i20 — behind world champion Sebastien Ogier (VW), Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and Andreas Mikkelsen (VW), while Dani Sordo (Hyundai) and Jari-Matti Latvala (VW) are next in the running order.
“If it stays dry then Jari-Matti is probably in the perfect position,” said Paddon.
“But we are really only talking about the top six competitors as being the ones who are capable of winning the rally, so fourth on the road within that six is probably not a bad position.
“At the end of the day we are fighting with the guys who are ahead of us and we know how difficult it can be in Australia if you are first or second on the road. So I think our position isn’t bad.”
Rally Australia runs over 23 special stages totalling 313km, starting on Friday and finishing on Sunday. It has a slightly different format from 14 months ago, having dropped the Saturday night stage.
The rally has introduced a 1.27km waterfront Super Special Stage, which will be run four times (twice each Friday and Saturday evening). There are 105 supporters registered on Paddon’s official rally tour and many other Kiwi rally fans are making their own way to the coastal NSW city to attend the season finale.
Watch the waterfront action live
In 2015, WRC Rally Australia raced through the forests and rural areas around Coffs Harbour while the NSW north coast city hosted the start and finish ceremonies and the service park.
This year, high-speed rally action is returning to the city with a new waterfront super special stage that will be used four times. It’s only 1.27km in length but will provide an ocean and harbour backdrop to showcase the Coffs Coast to a global live television audience on Friday.
The Super Special Stage on Jordan Esplanade in Coffs Harbour’s Jetty leisure precinct will run in daylight as the last stages on Friday and Saturday, after crews have spent all day competing on forestry and rural stages south of the city.
“We’ve introduced the Destination NSW Super Special Stage to showcase two of the Coffs Coast’s greatest natural attractions, the harbour and the adjacent Boambee ocean beach. Friday’s stage will be broadcast for an hour to WRC TV’s audience in 150 markets around the world,” said Rally Australia chairman Ben Rainsford.
“It’s just 1.27 kilometres long but will be packed with challenges to keep the likes of World Champion Sebastien Ogier in his Volkswagen busy every metre of the way.”
The Friday super special double-header (stages 10 and 11) will screen live in New Zealand on SkySport4 at 8.30pm.
The other live action from WRC Rally Australia comes from the 6.44km Wedding Bells stage on Sunday.
The first run (SS21) is on SkySport3 from 11.30am and the bonus points Power Stage finale (SS23) is on SkySport2 at 2.30pm.
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